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Friday, August 3, 2018

Winterhouse by Ben Guterson - Book Review, Guest Post & Giveaway

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Review by Suze

Elizabeth is an orphan and she lives with her uncaring uncle and aunt. They only watch television and don't show much of an interest in Elizabeth. She loves to read and tries to stay away from the negativity her uncle and aunt usually bring her as much as possible. When they have the chance to go on holiday together they don't hesitate and leave Elizabeth behind. She's being sent to Winterhouse Hotel to spend Christmas by herself. The hotel is owned by a magician named Norbridge. He promises Elizabeth to personally look after her. Will the initial nasty situation of having to spend Christmas on her own turn into something good for Elizabeth and can this be the Christmas she's always dreamed of. Will she find happiness for once, instead of having to get through another dreadful event with her uncle and aunt?

Winterhouse Hotel has an impressive library that greatly fascinates Elizabeth. She's eager to do a thorough search and when she finds a book that calls out to her, she takes it. It's a book about games, puzzles, codes and riddles that has a connection to Norbridge's family. When Elizabeth learns about Winterhouse's legend she's determined to do as much research as she can. Will she be able to find the key behind the mysteries that have captivated the family for many generations and what's the price she'll have to pay to go as far as she's able to?

Winterhouse is a brilliant intriguing story. I was dazzled by the enchanting hotel from the start and couldn't wait to find out more of its history. Elizabeth is smart, curious and inquisitive and she manages to gather a lot of information in the short time she's there. She fits right in and feels more at home in her hotelroom than with her uncle and aunt. Her sad home situation made me tear up, but Elizabeth is incredibly strong and she doesn't back down from any challenge. She can stand up for herself and doesn't let anyone make her a victim. I admired her courage and fabulous fierce spirit. She's a truly remarkable main character and I enjoyed every single page of her story.

Ben Guterson has a gorgeous descriptive writing style. He makes Winterhouse Hotel come to life in a terrific vibrant way. It's a magical place filled with many delightful secrets. I could easily understand Elizabeth's curiosity and loved her limitless desire to sleuth. Each attempt brings something new and I equally enjoyed all of her adventures. Ben Guterson's sentences are beautiful, they're laced with longing, hope, conundrums and predictions. They make Winterhouse compelling and alluring and that's exactly the way an excellent fantasy story should be. Winterhouse Hotel is a story that will stay with me for a very long time, it's a fantastic gem of a book.


If you love stories filled with magic you don't want to miss Winterhouse. It falls in the 9-12 age category, but is definitely a story that's suitable for all ages.

About Ben Guterson

Ben Guterson was a high school and middle school teacher in New Mexico and Colorado for a decade before working for several years at Microsoft as a program manager. He and his family live near Seattle in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.


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Guest post by Ben Guterson

The idea for Winterhouse first arose when my youngest daughter encouraged me to write a children's story many years ago. She was eight at the time (though a college graduate now), and, one day, suggested we walk to the small lake near our house with notebooks in-hand; she thought it would be fun for both of us to draw pictures and write stories beside the water. Here is a picture of the lake:

Once we settled in, I sketched an enormous hotel in the mountains and called it Winterhouse—I liked the sound of the name, though I can't recollect how it came to my mind. I do, however, remember envisioning a grand hotel set beside an ice-covered lake in some snowy, northern location. (I was inspired by the beautiful and famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Alberta--although I've never been fortunate enough to visit the place, I've been enchanted by photographs of it for as long as I can recall.) On the back of my drawing I started to write a story about a girl who lived with a cruel aunt and uncle but had somehow ended up visiting the fabulous Winterhouse Hotel for Christmas vacation. Here is a picture of the hotel on Lake Louise:

I read my three or four paragraphs to my daughter as we sat together, and she urged me to write a whole book about Winterhouse. We returned home and I put my drawing in my desk—never quite forgetting about the story, particularly because, over the years, my daughter kept prodding me to continue it, and by the time she was in high school I decided to take her advice. Here is the room in our house where I write:

I'd been writing for many years--adult novels, rather than children's books--and I received some interest from agents and editors along the way, though nothing ever took hold. When I finally turned my attention to Winterhouse and devoted myself to getting a solid draft completed, I was able to connect with a great agent, Rena Rossner, simply by "cold calling" agents from a list I found online. I believe I was rejected by over forty of them before Rena expressed an interest in Winterhouse. She helped me tighten up the story, and then she sent the manuscript to about twenty publishing houses.

Before long, we received some nice interest from a few editors, and Christy Ottaviano at Holt/Macmillan asked if I might be able to turn the single book I'd envisioned into a trilogy. I worked up some ideas, Christy seemed to like what I shared, and Macmillan offered me a three-book contract. I wasn't expecting any of that to happen, but it's been great to work with people as helpful and supportive as Rena and Christy--and, of course, I love writing middle grade books, so the outcome has been ideal.


One very lucky reader of With Love for Books will receive a hardcover copy of Winterhouse by Ben Guterson.

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The winner will be notified by email and has 3 days to respond. All of our giveaways are international.


  1. It sounds like a great adventure, I love it!

  2. Winterhouse sounds like an engaging and enchanting fantasy set in a magical hotel full of secrets.

  3. I love the cover of this novel and the novel itself sounds very intriguing and fascinating.

  4. I love a smart, curious heroine, so Elizabeth sounds like such a fun character to me.

  5. I know my daughter and I will both enjoy this book. Love the cover.

  6. It sounds a very interesting book for me and my daughter! Amazing cover!

  7. I think this one will be fun to read with my niece.

  8. I really enjoyed reading this Guest Post, it's always nice to know something about an author and I agree entirely in that Fairmont Chateau is an enchanting place and Lake Louise is stunning.

  9. I absolutely love magical stories! I’m always on the lookout for great ones to share with my nephew, and this book looks lovely! Also, small world, I believe this author lives quite close by to me as well. Glad to have a nice introduction to this book + author, TY very much! :D

  10. Another one on my to read list, I need to make more time for books

  11. Sounds like an intriguing location and story!

  12. I love reading stories like this one - when character is an orphan.

  13. This sounds such a wonderful read, fingers crossed

  14. Great sounding book - love the cover

  15. I love your book cover. Would be nice to win this book. Thanks!

  16. Love the sound of it. Beautiful cover

  17. I can think of at least a dozen of my students who would love this.

  18. This sounds like the ideal book for my mum - I think she'd really enjoy it.

  19. Wow, I love the cover. It makes me want to enter the hotel and investigate the mysteries behind the front door. The idea of a library in a hotel appeals to me, as I'm the one that will visit your house and nosy in your bookshelves to see what you are reading. This sounds a great read and can't wait to see what secrets and mysteries the book Elisabeth finds reveals.

  20. Thanks for the great prize and competition. Good luck everyone!